Thursday, 30 December 2010

"Race" is not "Racially Ambiguous"; It Simply Does Not Exist

Apparently a skirmish over color arousal in a potentially fake Nike ad, touting women with large behinds, led to a discussion of the issue at The Root this week.  The Root writer, Nsenga K. Burton, wrote that the skin color in the photograph posted made the woman "racially ambiguous."

To try and add some scientific substance to the question, instead of becoming hopelessly confused and chasing our tails in "racial" circles, I posted the following:

I find it most interesting that the writer describes this woman as "racially ambiguous". "Race", as a matter of science, does NOT exist and it never did. The reason that her "race" is so hard to determine is that "race' was never a scientific reality. It's like saying the height and weight of the Easter Bunny and Santa's reindeer are "ambiguous." They are ambiguous because they don't exist.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Human Genome Program,

"DNA studies do not indicate that separate classifiable subspecies (races) exist within modern humans. While different genes for physical traits such as skin and hair color can be identified between individuals, no consistent patterns of genes across the human genome exist to distinguish one race from another. There also is no genetic basis for divisions of human ethnicity. People who have lived in the same geographic region for many generations may have some alleles in common, but no allele will be found in all members of one population and in no members of any other."

In other words, the Human Genome Project has proven that, as a matter of scientific fact, that which we call "race" does not exist as a matter of biology, and so all references to "race" are references to a fallacy.

An article called 'Race' and the Human Genome", published at Nature.Com in the "Nature Genetics," acknowledges that:

With very rare exceptions, all of us in the US are immigrants. We bring with us a subset of genes from our homelands, and for many Americans, often first-generation but more commonly second-generation, the plural noun 'homelands' is appropriate. From this perspective, the most immediately obvious characteristic of 'race' is that describing most of us as Caucasian, Asian or African is far too simple. Despite attempts by the US Census Bureau to expand its definitions, the term 'race' does not describe most of us with the subtlety and complexity required to capture and appreciate our genetic diversity. Unfortunately, this oversimplification has had many tragic effects. Therefore, we need to start with the science . . . "
Yesterday, 22:57:09
The reality is that the skin color of the woman in the photograph is "bisque", which is designated on the Internet Color chart as color number " #FFE4C4 ".

No vapid and anti-scientific discussion of her "race" can change the color of her skin, while her skin color does not fit within hardened sociological notions of "racial" extremes. We cannot assign to her membership in the "black race" or the "white race" because those "races" simply do not exist now and never did in the past.

Actual scientists might have divided humans into subspecies based on skin color, hair color, height, and other characteristics, except that it has been found to be impossible to find any given genetic material in one human group that is not present to some extent in another human group. Hence the "racial ambiguity". It is far more scientific to simply acknowledge that sub-races of the human race simply do not exist, and even if they did exist it would not be possible to distinguish and predict their genetic differences based on their skin color.

The truth is that the woman above has a skin color that is not easily named within a binomial "race by skin color" social system. Let's adjust the social system to the science rather than continuing in futility to try to adjust the science to the social system. That is what the author above admitted s/he was doing when s/he tried to assign a bisque-colored woman to a "white race" or "black race".

Others can and will stick with their "race"-based understanding of the science of human genetics. However, human geneticists of the Human Genome Project have already announced that humans will never fit into neat "races" based on their skin color. Just as phrenology is no longer a serious topic of science, I predict that "race" will have been replaced in science and elsewhere with much more subtle and useful understandings based on the human genome within the next fifty years. "Race" is headed toward the trash basket.

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